Top HR Lies

In the never ending quest to beat a blog series to death, let’s hope this is my last installment of “Top Lies” (Top Candidate Lies, Top Recruiter Lies).

At this point I’ve completely pissed off ‘candidates’, made some fun of Recruiters, so now it’s time to really have some fun with the easiest target of all  — HR!  For the most part my peers in HR have fairly thick skin.  HR is actually use to being made the joke in the professional world.  The only profession that gets made fun of worse is probably lawyers!  I could do an entire post on why HR lacks respect, but that has been done a thousand times and in reality having respect in HR isn’t a professional dilemma, it’s a personal one!  If you’re in HR and don’t have respect in your organization, don’t blame the HR profession, you need to look in the mirror!

All that being said, HR might be the king of the liars in your organization!  Let’s break down a few of Top HR Lies:

“In HR we are here for ‘our’ Employees!”  — HR is not an employee advocate.  HR supports the organization’s leadership and mission.  BTW – many HR Pros don’t even get this concept! When push comes to shove, HR will always support that way leadership wants to go, not the way employees want to go.

“You can tell HR, we are always confidential!” — No we’re not! HR has an obligation to look out for the best interest of the organization, not you.  If you tell HR something ‘confidentially’, there is a very good chance that information will be shared with others in the organization.  The reality.  HR has to mitigate the risk of the organization.  Your craziness has risk to it.

“We had no idea layoffs were coming…” —  Sorry, but we did.  But we just can’t tell you that and create panic throughout the organization.  So, we lie. It sucks, but there isn’t any other way.

“No, you can’t change your health benefits until next Open Enrollment, it’s the law!”  — Yeah, that’s kind of a lie as well!  There are laws governing when we ‘have’ to allow you to change your benefits (marriage, child being born, divorce, etc.), but HR can decide to change the plan rules and allow you to change if we wanted. But, that becomes a logistical nightmare!  Even with keeping our plan rules intact, we can still get around it.  Let’s say you are a young employee and chose the crappy low-cost catastrophic major medical plan that basically covers nothing, but you’re young and nothing will ever happen to you. Then, something does happen to you.  You come to HR. HR says, “We told you so! Sorry, you have to wait until next Open Enrollment, have fun with that cancer!”  HR could actually fire you on a Friday, hire you back on Monday and have you sign up for the ‘new’ insurance.  Based on your plan there could be some audit risk based on IRS code, section 125 – so check it out before you go do this. But, it’s not like you’re doing this all the time – this is maybe once a year for a desperate situation – I’ll take that risk (and have) to help my employee in this situation!

– “We fire people!”  — HR has never fired anyone, ever.  Managers of of employees fire people.  HR just supports that decision, and frequently influences a manager to make that decision, but we don’t pull the trigger.  Managers blame HR — “HR is telling me I have to do this”, but that’s a lie as well.  HR advises of the consequences if certain actions aren’t taken. Ultimately, leaders make the final decision on what is actually going to happen.

“Top performers get rewarded!” — Actually, in most organizations even average performers get rewarded….and low performers.  We have a compensation plan and don’t want to leave anyone out. So, you can be great and get a 3% raise. Your cube mate could be a slug and get a 1% raise.  How does that feel?

–  “We treat everyone equally!” — The reality is we treat certain employees better and give them more leeway to screw up, because they are more valuable to the organization.  Not all employees are create equal.  That was just something that sounded good on the poster for the break room.   Some employees are actually substantially more valuable to the organization than you are.  We treat them differently.

“We value diversity and inclusion!” — We actually really don’t give a crap about this.  It gets shoved down our throats, legally, organizationally, etc. What we really care about is filling positions with solid talent.  But leadership makes me provide a report that counts the color of faces, so now we have to care.  So we care about the number of faces, not the true sense of diversity.  Don’t hate the players, hate the game.

Alright HR Pros – What Lies Did I Forget?



12 thoughts on “Top HR Lies

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  2. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up!
    I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website to come back down the road.

  3. “‘We value diversity and inclusion!’ — We actually really don’t give a crap about this. ”

    Jesus. I understand what you’re saying and I UNDERSTAND what you’re saying, which is why the laws are in place.

  4. Just to be heretical and to break the rule of never discussing religion. About the previous comment:

    My wife is Catholic; I’m not. She thinks someone is always watching, and she will get caught for the smallest misdeed. I’m not, and I think even the largest corporate misdeeds are rarely caught and punished.

    Do what’s humane, when you can. You’ll probably get away with it.

  5. Fair points and why I hedge…I would probably advise looking to document something on the “administrative error” exception side.

    For the record: I totally agree with the sentiment of HR being too bureaucratic. HR often fails to be entrepreneurial in its approach, which costs them a place at the leadership table.

    Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your posts.

  6. “HR could actually fire you on a Friday, hire you back on Monday and have you sign up for the ‘new’ insurance. HR can do that.”

    Not really – This is likely a violation of the IRS Section 125 regulations. If someone is rehired within 30 days their elections prior to termination should be restored to the previous elections in most cases.

    Additionally, the employer’s Section 125 plan document *should* address rehires. The employer would be required to adhere to the written document, which likely incorporates the point above.

    The employer could be a gunslinger and do it regardless…but they risk a compliance exposure that could result in *all* participants losing their tax free contribution status.

    In the post-PPACA audit world it is much higher risk than previously. I would highly advise a client to never take that action.

    Also – in most cases – you cannot waive a waiting period on your health plan. The health plan contract would likely require a new waiting period, which would require COBRA or state continuation administration.

    If the waiting period is waived on rehired employees – my experience is – the carrier requires restoration of the previous elections, including back premiums so there is no break in coverage.

    • Tim –

      You’re right, by the letter of the law. Risk in doing this, though, is very low, even when audited – it’s not like you’re doing this all the time. An instance like this might happen once a year at most. What I’m trying to get to, is we (HR) don’t do enough to help out employees by hiding behind policy and regulation. The IRS rules are always open to interpretation. Even in your example – you do come up with possibilities within the plan, even if you have to back pay premiums, etc. Most HR Pros aren’t willing to look that deep into helping out their employees to give them that option!

      Thanks for the comments,

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